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KPS enrollment down, local homeschool numbers up amid COVID-19

KPS enrollment down, local homeschool numbers up amid COVID-19


KEARNEY — Enrollment numbers for the 2020-21 school year show that Kearney Public Schools has dropped 181 students compared to last year.

According to a presentation from registrar Sarah Larsen to the KPS board Monday night, even though KPS enrollment historically has grown every year, it has shrunk this school year.

This year, 5,627 students are enrolled in the district compared to 5,808 last year.

“Obviously that’s a big COVID impact for our enrollment to go down that much,” Larsen explained to the board as she shared data from the Nebraska Department of Education.

Meanwhile, local homeschool numbers have drastically increased. While the number of homeschool students in the area was trending upward in recent years, increasing steadily from 156 students in 2016 to 206 in 2019, the total jumped to 354 for this year.

Opt-in enrollment is also down when 232 students opted into the KPS district last year compared to 217 this year. There were 14 students who opted out of KPS this year.

Larsen told the board she believes that more parents seem to be choosing to keep their students in the smaller regional schools, limiting potential virus exposure, instead of transferring to the larger KPS system.

In contrast to an “extremely large” kindergarten class in 2019-20, with 529 students, this year the total shrunk to 467. Larsen said this is the smallest class in the last three years and that many kids old enough to attend this year held off a year.

However, the registrar expects these changes to be temporary.

“We expect those students to come back,” Larsen said. “This summer should be pretty busy. We expect those numbers to go back up.”

During his budget report to the board last month, Financial Director Chris Nelson said he expects the district to see a decrease in state aid tied to this enrollment drop, as enrollment is a key factor in the formula used to determine state aid. At that meeting, he estimated a $8,500 loss in aid per student lost, which translates roughly to $1.5 million.

Larsen noted 2020-21 data is not yet locked at the state level, which will be finalized Nov. 1. Data presented at Monday’s school board meeting was as of Oct. 1.

Specific KPS enrollment numbers are:

- Pre-K: 79

- Kindergarten: 467

- First: 494

- Second: 446

- Third: 455

- Fourth: 429

- Fifth: 441

- Sixth: 415

- Seventh: 421

- Eighth: 390

- Ninth: 418

- 10th: 373

- 11th: 417

- 12th: 382


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